Tell ’em about the honey …
Posted by apgaylard on August 15, 2009
According to Annelie Whitfield, the presenter of Channel 4’s ‘The Kitchen Pharmacy” honey is hydrating. In an episode featuring what she calls “anti-aging” treatments, she makes an “Avocado Face Mask” with avocado and probiotic yoghurt. Finally she adds honey, saying:
“Honey […] is deeply hydrating and it really helps to get rid of any spots that you might have […]”
The video is available here. Lots of things that Whitfield says strike me as odd. This is just another small example. So, is it strange but true, or just untrue?
For something to be hydrating it needs to contain water, and that water needs to be ‘free’; not bound up with other chemicals. Now honey does contain water, around 17% by weight. So, at face value, it might seem that honey could be hydrating. However, if honey had a significant proportion of its water content available for hydrating human skin, it would also allow micro-organisms to grow in it. Clearly, honey has a long shelf life, so this would suggest that the water in honey is not ‘free’.
There is a way to assess ‘free’ water content: a parameter called water activity (aW); it represents the amount of water a substance has available to hydrate other things. It is defined by the ratio of the vapour pressure of water in a substance to the vapour pressure of pure water at a specific temperature.* For pure water aW =1 and for a substance with no ‘free’ water aW =0.
So, where does honey fit on this scale?** It’s quite easy to find some data to put honey into perspective as a potential hydrating agent.
|Raw meat||0.98 – 0.99|
|Bread||0.95 – 0.96|
|Preserves||0.8 – 0.88|
|Dried fruit||0.6 – 0.76|
Honey has low water activity, so little of its water is available for hydrating the things it comes into contact with. That means it’s not “deeply hydrating” as Whitfield would have us believe. Put it this way: bread, jam, cheese or raw meat is more hydrating. But I guess that the facts don’t paint a picture pretty enough for this naturopath; honey has such a romantic, natural and healthy image.
In the end, Whitfield’s claim is irrelevant as, in this case, the honey is added to a watery mix of avocado and probiotic yoghurt. If this face mask is hydrating, it’s these ingredients that are responsible, not the honey.
This is just another small example of the monstrous nonsense that this naturopath is allowed to present as fact by Channel 4; another salutary example of the critical thinking and research skills that bogus science degrees confer upon their graduates.
If you think I have got anything wrong in this piece, please let me know. I try to be careful, but anyone can be mistaken. If you are right I will happily correct what I have written.
Other posts in the Kitchen Pharmacy series
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